Feb 7, 2011

Bicycles = Insulation From Economic Turmoil

**Update March 4 2017** What I like to call the #oilpocalypse has dramatically affected tens of thousands of Calgarians and it's affects are still reverbertaing through the economy at every level in. Downtown office space available is approaching 30%, acommodation rental prices are falling through the floor, retailers of all kinds are feeling the slowdown, and it is probably fair to say that everyone in this city knows someone who has been directly affected. Times are indeed tough right now and doing whatever you can to reduce your costs has gone from being a nice idea to absolutely imperative.

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**Update January 29 2015**  Here in Alberta, the rapidly plunging price of oil over the last 6 months has seen 10's of thousands of announced layoffs hitting the industry, resulting in skyrocketing home listings - up 80!% year over year - and corresponding dropping home sales - down 38!% year over year. More layoffs are coming and it won't be long before we start to see real challenges for some who've been living like there's no tomorrow.

My advice to those worried about their jobs in the oil patch is quite simple - figure out a way to reduce your costs NOW and start with looking at your current spend on transport. Cars are expensive and ditching a vehicle can save you $10,000 per year.

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Unless you have been living under a rock in the woods, you have no doubt heard the term "peak oil" mentioned in the media or perhaps in conversation amongst some of your oil/gas business friends.

For an explanation of the term, check out Wikipedia's page.

The Globe and Mail today has an interesting article relating directly to peak oil and its effects on our economy in a real way - rising food costs due to rising fuel costs.  Here is another article from the same paper over the weekend on how Canada's economy has inexorably changed over a very short period of time.  Also today, I found this series of short videos with James Howard Kunstler talking about peak oil. 

The reason for mentioning these big issues is simple - fuel costs are rising, food costs are rising, and there does not seem to be much chance that some other source of energy will be able to replace oil as our liquid fuel (for transportation) of choice any time soon.

Lets face facts: Here in Calgary (and many other big cities), the majority of the population live in far-flung exurban communities and need to use cars for just about everything as their residences are not within walking distance of anything.  These same folks are the ones who will feel the rising fuel and food costs the most as their lifestyle is based on using a car to literally survive.

The purpose of this post is not to debate other fuel technologies (none of which IMO will make a big impact, including electric cars) or to pass judgement on individuals choices on how they live their lives.  The purpose is to point out that there is a way for you to perhaps insulate yourself from those rising costs by incorporating bicycling into your life.

Using a bicycle more often can insulate you and your family from rising costs.  Perhaps your family has more than one car (Calgary has the highest car ownership rates in Canada) - why not sell one of them, save the money you would have spent on it  and pick up a bicycle to use for commuting to work or doing grocery runs with?

No more car payments.  No insurance.  No gas station visits.  No parking tickets.  Ever again.

Depending on where you live and work, there are a few bicycle types that could be added to your life to help you to be save money, live healthier, and add value to your own life experience.

  • Traditional City/Commuter Bikes - the sometimes forgotten bicycle type that is the cornerstone of Northern Europe's amazing bicycle culture, city bikes usually come equipped with useful features like fenders (to keep you clean), racks (to carry a load), chainguard (to keep your nice clothes clean), kickstands, lights, and bells making cycling convenient and safe. Many may imagine a slow, heavy, cumbersome bike but this is definitely not the case. Modern designs from Raleigh and Breezer offer zippy bikes that can also haul your goodies. Ride it from home to work and back again. Ride it in your neighbourhood to run errands or pick up groceries. Ride it to the train station and use transit to get further afield. Explore our city's incredible pathway network on the weekends with your family, modelling healthy outdoor choices to your children. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. We have many brands to choose from, across a wide ranch of prices to fit your budget.
  • Cargobikes - 21st century SUVs - plain and simple. These incredible machines have the power to transform your lifestyle, save you money, enhance your health, and add family enjoyment to normally mundane "life maintenance" tasks. Cargobikes come in many shapes, sizes, and pricepoints. For more information on the styles and possibilities of these life-changing bikes - read this post - "Biking With Your Baby Onboard".

    We are Alberta's cargobike experts and can help guide you towards the perfect cargobike option. For a primer on them - click here and start your journey towards a more resilient lifestyle.
     
  •  Brompton Folding Bikes - Brompton bikes are considered the "gold standard" of folding bikes by many and are truly incredible machines. Super fun to ride, capable of toting a large load of groceries and accepted on Calgary Transit buses and trains - they are amazing range extenders and can help you park a vehicle for your commute to work and/or run to the local grocery store. Ride to the train station, fold up and hop on, and ride to work at the other end. Easy. Fun. Cheap. We have demo's available for you to try as well.

The money saved can help offset the rising costs of food and fuel, as well as reducing your carbon footprint - meanwhile making you fitter, happier, and more connected to your community. You'll find new ways of doing things, new people to interact with, new neighbourhoods and parks, and a new appreciation for what the humble bicycle can do.

Perhaps even more important than saving money: better overall health. Riding a bike daily will keep you happier (mental health), make you fitter (physical health), and expand your horizons (community connection).

Don't you think its worth it to try?

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